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I’ve been pretty fortunate to grow up surrounded by family. Every birthday, Holiday, and sometimes a spare weekend here and there, was spent between both sets of grandparents, and after I married, we never lived more than an hour away from my parents and in-laws.
Although you might think getting together would be difficult with so much family around – I mean, who do you go see, and when? The Holidays were actually pretty easy. Joseph and I established an every other year system that allowed us to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with one set of family, per year. It worked really well.
Then we moved.
Now we have the excruciatingly painful decision of “deciding” which Holidays will be back in NY, and which ones will be here in FL. Do we buy a plane ticket, or drive? Stay, or go? These are questions we ask ourselves every day, while ticket prices expectantly rise, and the Holidays loom closer.
While it doesn’t make our decision any easier, there are a few ways you can save on Holiday travel if you’re an out-of-towner.
1. Don’t Try to Be Everywhere
Like I mentioned earlier, Joseph and I established an every-other Holiday system that worked, and worked well. Now that we’ve moved, it has to be reworked. Although this time, our budget will be much more heavily involved in the decision making!
A routine like this is much easier to implement earlier in your marriage rather than later. I’ve watched friends spend most of their Holiday in the car traveling between families, and it saddens me. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, slowed down, and savored.
2. Budget for It
We would have been in a much better place had we started budgeting for Holiday travel the moment we knew we were moving. Instead, life caught up with us, and it took quite a few months of adjusting to a new place, a new city, and a new church before we even really thought about it.
Now, there is a dedicated column in my budget sheet, where we can set aside money specifically for Holiday travel. It might be something to consider for your budget as well.
3. Start Researching Expenses Early
I’m a firm believer that one can never prepare too early for anything….including upcoming expenses.
With a general knowledge of what plane tickets cost, you have a reliable number to use for your budget. I check prices once a week, on separate days, and write down current rates as they are updated. This should give you a better idea of how prices are fluctuating and when to buy vs. wait.
For car travel, there is a Trip Cost Calculator on GasBuddy.com that will estimate your gas usage. We used it for one of our road trips a few years ago, and it was pretty close to accurate when I added up all our gas receipts at the end of the vacation.
4. Take Advantage of Rewards
Even though traveling does take some upfront expenses, there are plenty of opportunities for rewards! Look into airline credit cards with miles, hotel rewards programs, and gas cards. Buy plane tickets and book hotels through Rakuten or MyPoints to receive gift cards and cash back.
Sometimes, the rewards aren’t quite worth it…yet. We’ve talked about getting a credit card that earns double miles, but aren’t sure we will be traveling enough to make it worthwhile. Many of them have annual fees, or accumulate so little miles, it is hardly worth carrying another credit card around until we really need it.
After years of watching other families come in from “out-of-town”, I have to accept that I am one of them now. But that doesn’t mean we have to blow our budgets to see our loved ones.
Use these tips to help take a little bit of that Holiday pressure off, and still enjoy a relaxing vacation with your family!
What are your travel plans for the Holidays?
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